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Mario Andretti On Tennis

Published by on June 22, 2012 filed under Articles   ·   Comments (0)
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Mario Andretti On Tennis  | read this item

For a recent Biofile, the auto racing legend Mario Andretti mentioned he played tennis. “Just about every day. I play quite a bit outdoors. We have a beautiful court (at home in Nazareth, PA). I’ve been playing since fairly late, started at around age 32. A lot of the Formula I racers were tennis players. I actually started in South Africa. Carlos Roitman, Clay Roizoni, Ronnie Peterson were playing quite a bit. There were beautiful clay courts in Austria where we played.”

Like many successful sportsmen, Andretti, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and the 1978 Formula I world champion, enjoys watching pro tennis action. “I love watching tennis, I follow quite a bit now. I just love watching Roger Federer do his thing. Nadal and Djokovic are very exciting. I like Andy Roddick. I used to love John McEnroe, the way he would dispute every call. He was the bad boy. We were quite friendly with Monica Seles for a while, she loved Formula I. I met Rod Laver a long time ago, he was one of the first pros I ever met. He was still active.”

Describing is own game, the man who won 109 career races on major circuits, says, “I hit pretty decent baseline shots, cross court winners sometimes. I think I play fairly decent. If I compared to golf, I’d be playing in the 80′s.”

As far as weaknesses, 72-year-old Andretti cites his serve. “You always work on your serve, forever. I’m getting most in lately. When I miss, I hit the tape. I have a fairly effective first serve.”

For equipment, Andretti uses “Prince racquets and Puma sneakers right now.”

His favorite tournament: “I like the U.S. Open. But also Wimbledon. I wait for the U.S. Open like you can’t believe. And I watch a lot of it, it’s in the country, so the timetable works and you see it live. I truly love the U.S. Open. I’d say I watch every chance I get – a lot.”

The U.S. Open is the only slam event Andretti has attended live. “Texaco had a box. I would always be invited and definitely took advantage of it. I love to watch tennis on TV. I think tennis is very good on TV.”

Andretti says he never got the chance to hit with his friend Seles, though he did share a court once with a popular professional. “I played a Pro Am in Detroit one time. Mansour Bahrami – that’s who I played with. He does all kinds of tricks, he’s exciting. I hit with pros there and I just loved it. He was lobbing me shots, I said, you can hit it harder. The harder he hit, the better I was hitting back. It raises your level.”

Monica Seles is a racing fan and attended several events. “She went to a couple of Grand Prix where (his son) Michael was. I spent some time with her at the U.S. Open, she was up at the suites. She’s a big racing fan.”

Andretti’s playing partners consist mostly of family and friends. “My sons Michael, Jeff. My daughter Barbie. Friends that come up, we play singles, doubles. We play a lot in the day and night, we have lights.”

When not having fun on the tennis courts, Andretti busies himself with the Andretti winery in Napa Valley, a petroleum partnership which operates gas stations and distributes fuel in northern California, a racing school, and Andretti Indoor Karting and Games near Atlanta.

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Scoop Malinowski

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